A FOND FAREWELL

Bernie’s car, a Hybrid Toyota Camry, came to its end today.

Toyota said we should stop driving it, the rust at the bottom was terrible and the car was coming apart at the seams. So today Tim drove it slowly to a junkyard while I followed in my car with emergency lights on. We got there safely, I gave them the title, they gave me a check for $100, and I bid a fond farewell to the “blue car,” as we called it, before pulling away with Tim. I also paid attention one last time to the orange Peacemakers decal on the back, with the insignia of a paulownia leaf.

Bernie got the car in 2007. Till then we’d been happily driving another Camry, a 1995 model previously owned by Maezumi Roshi. At 12 years old it was still driving pretty snappily, but not long distances, and in September 2007 Bernie was going to start teaching in Harvard every week, 2 hours’ drive away. That’s when he said that it was time for a new car.

“Why not the Prius?” I asked him, which was all the rage at that time.

“I want something heavy,” was his answer.

Sure enough, that fall and winter we seemed to have ice and snow every Sunday night, which the blue car took with stability and poise early Sunday mornings. Meantime, I drove the 1995 Camry till 2011 when, at 230,000 miles and leaking fluids everywhere, I took pity on our poor planet and finally scrapped it.

In addition to the orange decal, the blue car had lots of character: cigarette burns by the seat, a cigar-smoke swallowing machine on the floor, and about half a dozen packages of breath mints to make Bernie’s breath tolerable. The side compartment, of course, contained two old and stale cigars along with a cigar cutter, and small cellophane wrappings. Not to mention the seats that smelled of cigar smoke. Stanley and Bubale, our previous generation of dogs, decided to get into the act, poked holes in the leather seats and clawed at the upholstery on the inside of the doors every time they saw a person, dog, or best of all, a motorcycle on the road.

“Why can’t you take better care of your beautiful car?” I asked him.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“The back looks like it was hit by a tornado and the front smells like an incinerator.”

“So what’s wrong with it?” he’d ask, puffing on his cigar.